They are fighting for their forgotten men

In may, Ukraine will host the Eurovision song contest, and tens of thousands of tourists from all over the world should come to Kiev.

Meanwhile, 70 miles from the capital, the conflict continues, which to date has cost the lives of 10,000 people. Right now fierce fighting in the industrial city of Avdiivka.

Expressen reporter Diamant salihu (Diamant Salihu) (text) Hilmarsson and Kristoffer (Christoffer Hjalmarsson) (photo) talk about events from the place of forgotten European war.

Kyiv,February 13, afternoon

In Kiev, life is gradually returning to its normal condition. Where three years ago threw Molotov cocktails at the police, now puppets are photographed with tourists. The war in Eastern Ukraine is far away, and many with whom we speak, are doing everything possible to not to think about the conflict.

Lily, Bevzuk-Voloshin, 27, works in the field of culture, Kiev.

Expressen: would Donald trump as the US President on the situation in Ukraine?

Lily, Bevzuk-Voloshin: Not only trump to be affected, but the whole of Europe, we came to the Maidan. But we do not feel support neither from Europe nor from US the fact that we fought on independence.

Can have a positive impact on Ukraine that trump became President?

— I wish this was reflected positively. I want to believe that everything will end as quickly as possible. Who will take care of it is another question.

Do you have loved ones who are involved in the fighting?

— My sister’s husband works as a border guard. He is doing well, but my aunt lives in Slavyansk, where there was fighting. They constantly see what is happening there, and they are very bad with money.

Do you see an end to the war?

I don’t know if I can imagine. I and itself-the war is not seen. Life here is absolutely normal. We will have a “contest” and the like. People go to theatres and concerts, life goes on as before.

What do you think about the fact that Eurovision will be held here in may?

— It’s weird. But culture should not be frozen. If we stop cultural development — I say working in the cultural sector will be another step backwards. Life must go on.

Tatiana Godlevskaya, 62, rents of real estate, Kiev.

Will Donald trump as the US President on the situation in Ukraine?

Tatiana Godlevskaya: I am an optimist. I think that would be better. I like the new US President and their very strong nation.

Can have a positive impact on Ukraine that trump became President?

I don’t want to say that I’m sure, but hope so. I hope he will not stop sanctions against Russia, and that he will find a way to affect Putin that he stop his actions, and we regained our borders.

You have loved ones on the front?

— All of us are affected by it. I am very worried about every soldier there. Brother-in-law my daughter was there, but he’s already back. I thank God that he survived.

When the war is over?

Tatiana begins to cry. After a while she says:

— Every morning I ask myself the same question. When will it end? I hope one morning I will Wake up and hear the news that the war was over.

Will Ukraine be able to unite as before?

Russia never, but the Ukrainian people will once again become one, as before, that’s for sure. If you have a child, and he is bad at school, did it become a bad child?

— We are all Ukrainians. We are one people.

Alexander Javor, 29, dressed in a Panda costume.

Will Donald trump as the US President on the situation in Ukraine?

Alexander Sochi: When Putin was called a murderer, trump defended him and said that “we have a lot of these.” I don’t know what direction to take the trump, but if Putin wants something, he will. I don’t want to take up arms, but if war comes to Kiev, I will be forced to join the army and defend his family.

— Do you see an end to the war?

— Every war has an end. Sorry, we can’t say anything about our future.

Tourists have started to return to Kiev?

— Partially, but not Russian. Before the revolution 70 % of the profits we have received from Russian tourists, but they don’t come. Instead of 250 hryvnia per day today I earn 150-200 (50-66 SEK). It is not enough to support a family.

Yulia Grishina, 39, a dancer and choreographer from Kharkov in North East Ukraine.

Will Donald trump as the US President on the situation in Ukraine?

Yulia Grishina: I don’t know how trump will affect the situation. Only time will tell. Every President wants to change things for the better, but it depends not only from him.

What do you want the war stopped?

— The people were ready to forgive and to compromise.

Do you think Ukraine would get back its former territory?

— I have no relation to Crimea. I only have relatives in Donetsk, they become accustomed to the situation. We are all tired of what is happening. I think it is easier to restore peace, if we udovolstviem what we have.

How often do you think that your country is at war?

— Remind me about this news and the stories of military chaplains who visited the front. But the longer the war lasts, the less many, including myself, think about it. I am not able to think about the war constantly. I want to think about something positive.

Kyiv, February 14, morning

Two years their husbands keep prisoners of war in the East of Ukraine.
Julia and Katya continue tirelessly to ensure that they were released.

Our husbands came to the defense of their country. And now anybody does not matter to them, they say.

Korinkova Julia and her friend Kate Glander stand in Independence Square, the Maidan, in the heart of the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. It is here with protests against then-President Viktor Yanukovych began three years ago the Ukrainian revolution.

A few meters from this place in February 2014 where the dead were activists. Shot by special forces soldiers.

The revolution led to Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and the beginning of arms of the Ukrainian militia in Donetsk and Lugansk, which declared the two regions in the East of the country, the independent national republics.

One of the fiercest fighting between Ukrainian government troops and militia, which, according to some reports, receive arms and support to the Russian soldiers, played out in February 2015 in debaltseve. This city is strategically important railway junction between Donetsk and Lugansk.

In February 2015, Alexander and Sergey, who were 23 and 26 years old, was at home in the city of Kropivnitsky Central Ukraine, they were released a couple of weeks on vacation. Before that, they spent most of 2014 spent at the front.

Julia and Alexander took the opportunity and got married.

“We always said that get married in the summer. But it all happened spontaneously,” says Julia.

5 Feb husband and his colleagues have called in special forces service. Soldiers were urgently needed in debaltseve, where the strategically important railway junction between Donetsk and Lugansk. 11 days later, and Julia and her friend Katie happened to have a conversation with their husbands.

Julia remembers the exact time. The clock was 17.17, February 16. The voice belonged to Alexander:

“I was taken prisoner. Will take care of me. Don’t worry.”

That’s all he was allowed to say.

Similar news on the phone received from Sergei and Katia, which is the same day found out something else quite different. She’s pregnant and they have Sergei will be the second child, a daughter, who, as she wanted her husband to get the name of Anna.

“It is impossible to describe what it was like to give birth without it,” said Kate, wiping away tears.

Neither one nor the other women have not seen their husbands since they were captured 727 days ago. At first they were allowed to call several times, but in the summer the calls stopped.

In the fall they received long-awaited news in the form of letters that were delivered to the red cross and observers from the Organization for security and cooperation in Europe, OSCE. The OSCE monitors the conflict, which to date has claimed 10,000 lives.

Battles are now — despite the fact that the representatives of Ukraine, Russia and the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Lugansk signed an agreement on ceasefire in Minsk on 5 September 2014, i.e., before the husbands of Julia and Katya were taken prisoner.

Only for the year 2016, the truce was violated 300 000 times, according to the OSCE. Today, Ukraine still officially calls these battles the anti-terrorist operation.

“We have the war in the country, and not some “anti-terrorist operation”. We, relatives, are paying for it the highest price their dead, wounded or captured loved ones,” says Julia Korinkova.

Julia and Kate brought to Kiev laminated pictures of their husbands. They show these photos during the demonstrations throughout Ukraine. Women begging, screaming themselves hoarse and calling on the authorities and the Russian Ambassador, and in the fall they were able to meet with President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko and commander in chief of the country.

“They said that “the keys to everything in the Kremlin”, — says Yulia hopelessly Korinkova about the meeting.

She is in despair and cries several times during the interview. In one of his last letters in November, Alexander wrote: “I’m Sorry I ruined your life. I hope we’ll meet again”.

During the war, thousands of soldiers and civilians from both sides have been exchanged with each other. To date, about fifty more Ukrainian prisoners remained in the occupied East of the country, among them Alexander and Sergey.

This could not happen, said Sergei Ivancea, short-haired and strong negotiator from the organization “Officer corps”, which consists of former military and police officers, who took upon himself to mediate in the exchange of prisoners.

Ivancea, a former major in the Ukrainian army, said that the organization was able to exchange 670 Ukrainian military prisoners of the people’s republics, which were taken in the territory controlled by official forces. He always calls the conflict a war.

Many of the soldiers that were brought from the East of Ukraine, are traces of electric shock and gunshot wounds they received at the feet, being a prisoner. Those that were in captivity at the official Ukraine, was subjected to trial on charges of terrorism, he said.
“In the beginning many people were taken prisoner during the fighting in the East, just killed, while the group did not understand that soldiers can be exchanged”, — says Sergey Ivancea.

To despair of Yulia and Katya, the number of exchanged prisoners of war fell heavily last year, since then, as the Ukrainian security service SBU took over the negotiations. For 2016 released a total of 17 people.

Julia and Kate don’t know where their husbands are. Only that they are alive and at risk to spend a long time in prison or worse. Other Ukrainians do not even know whether it is alive their loved ones.

Julia wipes her tears with a white tissue.

“Our men are being used as political tools in the negotiations. While they are in captivity, you can negotiate them. And when there are no prisoners, only then they will be forced to move on to a discussion of larger questions: how can we end the war?

The only thing that slightly scatters her thoughts for the last two years, the children in the kindergarten where she works.

“Otherwise I would have gone mad. I can’t seem to think about anything else. Few people understand what it’s like to be alone within four walls and just cry and not being able to do anything”.

We are on Independence square, where it all started. Katya was against the protests on the Maidan, like many government employees. Julia was all for it. None of them could not imagine, what this will evolve.

But would these women, who every day have to suffer the consequences of war to those protests never happened?

No, the answer is both, after a little thought. Kate explains:

“Nobody knows what would have happened if Yanukovych would have continued to rule”.